Friday, 17 November 2017

Microtransactions gone from Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront II launches today and many fans (myself included) aren't picking it up day-one. However, following weeks of heated debate surrounding pay-to-win, publisher EA has dropped microtransactions from the controversial sequel. At least for now.

"Our goal has always been to create the best possible game for all of you – devoted Star Wars fans and game players alike. We’ve also had an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows," a blogpost from Oskar Gabrielson, general manager at EA game developer DICE, read. "You’ve seen this with both the major adjustments, and polish, we have made over the past several weeks.

"But as we approach the worldwide launch, it’s clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right.

"We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this."

In the wake of this news, will you be buying Star Wars Battlefront II? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Are microtransactions the dark side of gaming?

Matt Charlton delves deeper into the issue of loot boxes and microtransactions in the wake of the controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II. Suggesting many gamers (myself included) may look to a resurgent Nintendo and its storied franchises this holiday season and beyond.

Guest post by Matt Charlton

Microtransactions have the potential to destroy this industry if they carry on the way they’re going!

Games used to be £30. You got everything. Recently, games were £50. £70 if you wanted everything.

Now, you get something for £50. More for £70 and everything else is a perpetual business model with moving goalposts.

Not to mention they will turn off the servers at some point. Probably in less than 5 years. At which point your £1500 on microtransactions is thrown in the bin.

I don’t like this direction and it’s putting me off investing in AAA titles on both the Xbox One and PS4.

I’d rather play on the Nintendo Switch now. Super Mario Odyssey was a masterpiece and a wonderful playthrough, which is still giving even after completing the main story. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a beast that I’ve still only just scratched the surface of.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is great and with the addition of Rocket League, yesterday, Nintendo Switch is rapidly becoming a wonderful platform and a haven for avid video gamers of all ages and abilities.

DLC is fine. A pain, sometimes especially if it’s on a disc, but it’s fine.

Microtransactions for skins and shiny things that don’t really affect anything other than aesthetics, bearable.

Buying your way up a power and ability track with loot crates is a cancer and it needs to be taken out of premium games. It has no place in the industry and gamers are starting to revolt.

Hopefully, they will go away.

How do you feel about the state of microtransactions and an aggressive approach by some publishers? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Social media outrage over Star Wars Battlefront II

As a lifelong Star Wars fan and avid video gamer since the Atari age, I was excited about Star Wars Battlefront II in the lead-up to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

2015's franchise reboot was terrific fun and the notion of the sequel's single-player campaign from the perspective of the Empire, set in Return of the Jedi, was compelling.

However, the online controversy surrounding loot boxes and pay-to-win has extinguished that excitement to the point of cancelling a pre-order for Xbox One.

Whilst I own a PS4, I opted for the Xbox One version as it will be enhanced for Xbox One X. Space battles in 4K? Don't mind if I do. Well, actually I do mind if loot boxes and pay-to-win are involved. Star Wars Battlefront II purportedly costs £1,600 to unlock everything. The whole issue has left me yearning for the halcyon days of LucasArts...

Maybe I'll play the game on EA Access if I decide to resubscribe. This has not been a banner year for the publisher. Battlefront only adds salt to the wound in the wake of Mass Effect's hiatus.

Are you getting Star Wars Battlefront II? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Amazon announces prequel to The Lord of the Rings

In the wake of Disney announcing a live-action Star Wars series for its upcoming streaming service. Amazon has inked a deal to create a $250 million dollar prequel series to The Lord of the Rings with the option of a further spin-off.

“The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, head of scripted series at Amazon Studios. “We are ... thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is searching for the next Game of Thrones. The Lord of the Rings is a good fit and mitigates risk with a pre-existing storied franchise.

“We are delighted that Amazon, with its longstanding commitment to literature, is the home of the first-ever multi-season television series for The Lord of the Rings,” said Matt Galsor, a representative for the Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins.

The Lord of the Rings has held me in its thrall since seeing Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation in 1978. This was followed by Brian Sibley's lauded audio adaptation for BBC Radio 4 and most recently Peter Jackson's live-action trilogy. The Hobbit was, frankly, stretched too thinly and I've no interest in rewatching. If anything, I hope Amazon will retain the services of composer Howard Shore for its upcoming series.

Are you excited to see a prequel to The Lord of the Rings? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Win The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years on DVD

William Hartnell is the original Doctor Who and fans first embarked on an adventure aboard the TARDIS in An Unearthly Child on 23rd November 1963.

This year's Christmas special, Twice Upon a Time, sees David Bradley (Harry Potter) reprise Hartnell's iconic role in Peter Capaldi's regeneration story witnessing the debut of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor Who. So, this is a timely release.

The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years features the most comprehensive collection of interviews with the actors and creators who brought the world of Doctor Who to life.

- Includes a special tribute to WILLIAM HARTNELL (the First Doctor), containing messages from a host of stars and production staff from Doctor Who.
- Presented by voice of the Daleks Nicholas Briggs.
- This double DVD also features the best in-depth interviews ever undertaken with Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara), William Russell (Ian), Peter Purves (Steven) and Jackie Lane (Dodo).
- This 2 DISC special collector's edition is 5 hours of pure nostalgia, which will give you a whole new insight into the making of Doctor Who.
- Includes special introduction by Nicholas Briggs & Producer Keith Barnfather.

To celebrate the release of The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years, we’re offering one reader a chance to win a copy on DVD.

To be in with a chance of winning, just answer this simple question:

Which serial was William Hartnell’s last as the titular Time Lord?

A. An Unearthly Child
B. The Tenth Planet
C. The Web Planet

Please leave your answer in the comments below.

The competition is open to UK readers only and closes Friday, 24th November. The winner will be randomly selected and contacted soon thereafter. Good luck.

Pre-order The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years from Amazon. This is an affiliate link and as such, I may receive compensation for any referrals.

Special thanks to Koch Media for supplying the competition prize.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Doctor Who fan film: Velocity

Since Jodie Whittaker was announced as the new Doctor Who, I've noticed a surge in membership of my Whovians Facebook group.

Subsequently, a US-based member, actress Krystal Moore, posted a link to her fan film, directed by partner Chris Phillips who has previously worked for MTV and The Guardian newspaper, that is clearly a passion project.

Phillips is a British expat and returned to his native Essex to record the 10-minute short film. Coincidentally, I have family there, too.

"By now, the world knows the BBC recently cast British actress Jodie Whittaker to take over the role of The Doctor at the end of this December's Doctor Who Christmas Special," said Phillips. "But, my girlfriend Krystal actually started writing our fan film with a female playing The Doctor quite some time ago. Our fan film, with the female Doctor, is rather successful [based on] the response."

Doctor Who Velocity: A Fan Special.

"The Doctor regenerates and travels back to the 1500s in a freshly renovated TARDIS, to save England’s first convicted Witch, Agnes Waterhouse, from a fiery death. Can she overcome the oppression of The Witchfinder General and save the women of Chelmsford?"

Filming of episode two is already underway. So, be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel for further episodes. Moore mentioned that they're also working on an audio adventure for Christmas.

If you have a Doctor Who fan film you'd like to share, please contact me.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Disney to stream Star Wars live-action series

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story began as a live-action television series idea following the completion of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

George Lucas stockpiled scripts created with Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame. Whilst these scripts were never used, Disney inherited them when the company bought Lucasfilm in 2012.

The Mouse House has ambitions to challenge streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. What better way to launch a new service than with an exclusive Star Wars series? CBS All Access has seen success with this strategy by streaming Star Trek: Discovery.

Are you excited about a Star Wars live-action series? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Rian Johnson to create new Star Wars trilogy

Star Wars: The Last Jedi isn't in theatres until next month, but director Rian Johnson is already hard at work on a new trilogy for Disney.

“We all loved working with Rian on The Last Jedi,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “He’s a creative force, and watching him craft The Last Jedi from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career. Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy.”

“We had the time of our lives collaborating with Lucasfilm and Disney on The Last Jedi,” Johnson and Bergman said in a joint statement. “Star Wars is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it. We can’t wait to continue with this new series of films.”

It's been a turbulent time for the franchise in the wake of Rogue One reshoots and directors departing from Star Wars movies. Most recently JJ Abrams, who successfully rebooted Star Wars with The Force Awakens, has replaced Colin Trevorrow on Episode IX. So, this is a mission statement from the Mouse House and its belief in Rian Johnson.

The new Star Wars trilogy will be separate from the Skywalker saga.

Are you looking forward to a new trilogy? What stories would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

First look at Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who

Fans have had their first look at Jodie Whittaker's new Doctor Who costume and TARDIS.

The costume possesses a Mork & Mindy vibe and a knowing nod to the Fourth Doctor's scarf, which has a nostalgic appeal for fans (myself included) who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Whittaker will be taking over the titular role from current incumbent Peter Capaldi this Christmas. She'll be joined by new companions Graham, Ryan and Yasmin played by actors Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill respectively. Cole joins fellow Doctor Who stars Warwick Davis, David Prowse and Felicity Jones who've appeared in Star Wars.

Chris Chibnall, the creator of Broadchurch, replaces Steven Moffat as series showrunner.

Filming of series 11 is rumoured to begin soon for broadcast in late 2018.

What do you think of the new costume and TARDIS? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

N7 Day celebrating ten years of Mass Effect

The original Mass Effect trilogy began ten years ago today as an Xbox 360 exclusive and BioWare has teased a day of celebrations:

"This year marks 10 years since the release of Mass Effect. In that time, we’ve made friends, fallen in love, and travelled to new galaxies.

We’ve watched our community grow, as all of you shared your love of this universe, wore your N7 with pride, and told us stories about your Shepard and Ryder.

This N7 day, we’re celebrating how far we’ve all come together, and looking back on a decade of Mass Effect. Check back here next Tuesday, November 7, to see all the great surprises, offers, and giveaways we have in store as we celebrate #teN7.

Thank you for coming with us to the stars and beyond. It’s been a hell of a ride. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

On N7 Day 2016 I embarked on an original Mass Effect trilogy playthrough on Xbox One in anticipation of Mass Effect: Andromeda. All three award-winning titles were available on EA Access. Why EA didn't wait to release the bug-ridden Mass Effect: Andromeda until now speaks to the publisher's fixation with shareholder value and not creativity within the context of commercialism. EA's not unique in this and the approach has culminated in the microtransactions controversy of the past few months. However, I digress from celebrating one of my most cherished gaming franchises.

I was very late to the party, after winning an Xbox 360 S, and bought Mass Effect 3 in 2012. This was tantamount to watching Star Wars: Return of the Jedi first! A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back are regarded as superior by most fans and critics.

So, finally, I began FemShep's hero's journey from the beginning. It would cement Mass Effect's status as one of the greatest space operas in any medium. Combining the Battlestar Galactica reboot with Star Trek and Star Wars to peerless effect.

I laughed, I cried and didn't want the story to end. Literally, sat feeling emotionally sick at the conclusion in the early hours of the morning. Because character-driven storytelling was front and centre throughout a hundred hours or more. And, for the first time, there was a disabled character, in a video game, I could relate to...

What are your Mass Effect memories? Let me know in the comments below.